Documentary Project By: Nick Pedersen
Sumeru is a body of work that metaphorically illustrates the mental journey that is undertaken in Zen Buddhist training and practice. In Zen literature, the word ‘land’ is commonly used as a symbol for the ‘mind’, and through a series of photographic montage images I have envisioned an exploration into the depths of this metaphorical ‘mind-world’. The narrative follows a spiritual quest as the storyline symbolically wanders through various states of consciousness and perceptions.
In this project I am referencing Zen Buddhism, and in particular what I have learned from koan study. Basically, koans are stories about ancient Zen masters that use beautiful and mysterious literary imagery to describe what happens in the mind, and Zen students often meditate on these paradoxical verses to help them gain insight. 1700 koans comprise the whole of Zen folklore and were most notably recorded in The Blue Cliff Records, The Gateless Barrier, The Book of Equanimity, and Transmission of Light in the 12th and 13th centuries. I have been inspired by one verse more than anything to conceive of this project, it is from The Blue Cliff Records and it reads,
Taking no notice of others,
Throwing his staff over his shoulder,
He goes straight ahead and journeys
Deep into the recesses of the hundred thousand mountains. (1)
Through my images I have created this metaphorical realm of the hundred thousand mountains, and the narrative illustrates a journey to reach its highest peak. In Buddhist mythology this mountain, known as Mt. Sumeru, stands at the center of the world and is surrounded by nine impenetrable mountain ranges. This central mountain is symbolic of ultimate truth, and it is said that the secrets of the universe can be found at its peak. My images show all the trials that are faced in the attempt to scale this mountain, depicting an epic spiritual quest to find truth.
1. Sekida, Katsuki Two Zen Classics: The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records Boston, Shambala Publications: 1995
Trailing Mud and Dripping Water
The Forest of Thorns
Clinging to Bushes and Weeds
The Tiger’s Lair
Capturing the Tiger
Passing Through the Brambles
Flowers in the Sky
Mountains and Waters
Groping Blindly in the Dark
Entering the Stream
The Quiet and Secret Land
Following the Wind
The Land of Silent Light
Silver Mountains and Iron Cliffs
The Mountain of Darkness
A Thousand Fathom Wall
The Mystic Peak
A Death-Dealing Blade
A Life-Giving Sword
Leaving No Traces
About the Photographer
Nick Pedersen is an award-winning photo illustrator from Salt Lake City. He holds a BFA degree in Photography / Printmaking, as well as an MFA degree in Digital Imaging from Pratt Institute in New York. He has shown artwork in galleries across the country and internationally, recently including the Museum of Russian Art, Bastardo Gallery, The Slingluff Gallery, and Copper Palate Press. His work has also been prominently featured in numerous publications such as After Capture, Beautiful Decay, and Empty Kingdom. He is currently an artist in residence at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada.
You can find Nick Pedersen on the Web :
All the pictures in this post are copyrighted to Nick Pedersen. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.